2015 Las Virgenes Stakes Preview

While the road to the Kentucky Derby this week goes through Tampa Bay Downs and its Festival Preview Day, and the road to the Kentucky Oaks also stops at Oaklawn with the Martha Washington Stakes, the richest race of the weekend resides on the west coast.  That race is picked and pondered in this space.  It's the Grade One, $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes from Santa Anita.  Sophomore fillies will go a two-turn flat mile on the dirt while looking to earn their share of Kentucky Oaks points, with ten to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third-place finisher and one to the fourth-place finisher.

Although questionably graded (it's a Grade One prep to the Santa Anita Oaks, itself a prep to the Kentucky Oaks; making it a prep to a prep to a prep), the Las Virgenes has been a productive race through the years.  The Las Virgenes goes for the thirty-second time and has been a Grade One since 1988.  Typically run in February, the race has produced four Kentucky Oaks winners in Fran's Valentine (1985), Goodbye Halo (1988), Lite Light (1991), and Blind Luck (2010).  Other notable winners include Serena's Song (1995), who won the G1 Haskell against the boys, Rags to Riches (2007), winner of that year's Belmont Stakes, and Beholder (2013), seen in the video below from Youtube, champion two-year-old filly for 2012 and three-year-old filly for 2013.

Morning line odds for this race, scheduled on January 31st, were not available at original publish time.

Updated January 29th with morning lines, but GLORY is expected to scratch per trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.  Morning lines quoted below are pre-scratch.

Santa Anita Park -- Race 8 -- G1 Las Virgenes Stakes -- One Mile on Dirt -- post time 4:00 pm PT

Welcome to the Jerry Hollendorfer Good Time Hour. The "Dorfer" has five four of the ten nine in here, and pulling two of them apart was a challenge.  ACHIEVER'S LEGACY, as a daughter of City Zip, seems more to fit to the mile distance than MAJESTIC PRESENCE, a daughter of Majestic Warrior (same sire as Princess of Sylmar) out of Victory Gallop.  I think ACHIEVER'S LEGACY has a more "now" pedigree and that's the trump card.  Both of them exit the G1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos against Take Charge Brandi.  But ACHIEVER'S LEGACY won two back in a six figure stakes at Del Mar going wide from the off the pace, not the easiest thing to do.  ACHIEVER'S LEGACY also shows a bit more of an affinity to move past rivals in the stretch, and with stretchout types like GLORY and CALLBACK here, that should help this sophomore filly.  Take nothing away from MAJESTIC PRESENCE, who graduated in the second career start going a two-turn mile at Del Mar and has been chasing around Take Charge Brandi, be it at home in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies or on the road in the G3 Delta Downs Princess.  She won't be chasing around Take Charge Brandi in this field and that drop in class makes her a force, as does Gary Stevens getting back aboard and a pair of sharp local six-furlong works.  MAYBELLENE is one of the five in here not trained by the "Dorfer".  A Bejerano/Baffert production, this sophomore filly also is unseen since the G1 Starlet over at Los Alamitos, finishing ahead of ACHIEVER'S LEGACY and MAJESTIC PRESENCE.  MAYBELLENE had a awful start in the G1 Chandelier, her first around two turns, and never raised her hooves.  Second in the Desi Arnaz Stakes two back to ACHIEVER'S LEGACY two back at Del Mar.  Aside from the gate issues in the Chandelier and second start immaturity, she hasn't run a bad one yet and cleared the first level allowance condition - beating ACHIEVER'S LEGACY- over the same distance and oval she races here.

Selections:

#4 ACHIEVER'S LEGACY (8/1)

#6 MAJESTIC PRESENCE (7/2)

#2 MAYBELLENE (3/1)

Longshot: Often, the "other" horse in the uncoupled entry is a go-to angle for this space.  I guess that makes someone with four entrants, and endorsing the least publicized of them the "other other other" horse of the uncoupled four-pronged entry.  The other other other Hollendorfer is #3 LUTINE BELLE (12/1). She's got six starts in the career, with three wins and two more money finishes, with only a wide trip from post twelve in the G1 Chandelier the only blemish.  Post twelve for a young horse can be a lot to ask, and that's the only time she's missed the board.  A winner going two turns on the turf in the Blue Norther, she has yet to win at two turns on dirt.  However, she deserves a chance to do so, and in a field loaded with speed and stretch-outs that only aids the cause of this off-the-pace type.

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